Health is a state of complete physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing and not just the absence of disease or ill health.
Safety is keeping your body from getting harmed by someone or something. Both deal with your body.
Safety means different things to different people. According to Wikipedia, safety means the state of being ‘safe’, the condition of being protected against physical, social, spiritual, financial, political, emotional, occupational, psychological, educational or other types or consequences of failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or any other events. With such a broad definition, it is no wonder it is nearly impossible to get people to commit to a specific safety plan or safety procedure.
Working provides many economic and other benefits yet a wide array of workplace hazards also present risks to the health and safety of people at work. These include chemicals, biological agents, physical factors, adverse ergonomic conditions, allergens, a complex network of safety risks, and a broad range of psychosocial risk factors.
Physical and Mechanical hazards:
Physical hazards are a common source of injuries in some workshops. Many machines involve moving parts, sharp edges, hot surfaces and other hazards with the potential to crush, burn, cut, shear, stab or otherwise strike or wound workers if used unsafely. Various safety measures exist to minimize these hazards which include machine maintenance and protection systems.
Falls are a common cause of workplace injuries and fatalities especially in construction, transportation, building, cleaning and maintenance.
Confined spaces also present a safety problem. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health defines “Confined space” as having limited openings for entry and exit and unfavourable natural ventilation, and which is not intended for continuous employee occupancy. These kinds of spaces can include storage tanks, sewage or septic tanks and pipelines. Confined spaces can pose a hazard not just to workers, but also to people who try to rescue them.
Noise presents a fairly common workplace hazard: Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States, with 22 Million workers exposed to hazardous noise levels at work and an estimated $242 Million spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability. Noise is not the only source of occupational hearing loss; exposure to chemicals such as aromatic solvents and metals including lead, arsenic, and mercury can also cause hearing loss.
Temperature extremes can pose a danger to workers. Heat stress can cause heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps, and rashes. Heat can also fog up safety glasses or cause sweaty palms or dizziness, all of which increase the risk of other injuries. Workers near hot surfaces or steam also are at risk for burns. Dehydration may also result from over exposure to heat. Over exposure to cold condition or extreme cold can lead to hypothermia, frost bite or chilblains.
Electricity poses a danger to many workers. Electrical injuries can be divided into four types: Fatal electrocution, electric shock, burns and falls caused by contact with electric energy.
Musculoskeletal disorders are avoided by the employment of good ergonomic design and the reduction of repeated strenuous movements or lifts.
Biological and Chemical hazard: Workers in healthcare facilities and in microbiology laboratories can come in contact with bacteria, viruses, fungi and blood-borne pathogens while those in biochemistry and chemistry laboratories can sustain injuries from acids, bases, heavy metals solvents and other chemicals.
Employees are also exposed to psychological or psychosocial hazards and these need to be indentified and controlled. Psychosocial hazards are related to the way work is designed, organized and managed, as well as the economic and social contexts of work and are associated with psychiatric, psychological and/or physical injury or illness. All these present as occupational stress. Workplace violence is also recognized internationally as a major challenge to occupational health and safety.
Feeling of job insecurity, right sizing and outsourcing are also emerging psychosocial risks. Specific occupational safety and health risk factors vary depending on the specific job or duty you are engaged in. April 28 is usually observed as World day for safety and Health.
Health and Safety Benefits of Newly Employed Staff
No matter how big or small a business or industry is, there is great need to manage safety and health. The employer is legally responsible for the safety and health of his employees and any other person that may be affected by the work activities.
Accidents and ill-health cost businesses and institutions like ours money, in lost time, lost skills, insurance hikes, legal proceedings, increased medical costs etc. The benefits of effective health and safety management to enterprises are very significant. There is clear evidence that effective health and safety management contributes directly to overall goal success. By your stay and presence at the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana you would have observed the various health and safety measures adopted for the good of all.
10. The Polytechnic has a bus service that conveys staff to and from work, from Afikpo and Unwana with well trained drivers.
11. There is an ambulance service that is in place that is put to use in Emergencies.
12. Protective devices are usually provided in areas where staff are usually exposed to known and perceived risks.
13. Staff are all covered by a group insurance plan against accidents, permanent and temporary disability or death.
These are just some of the safety and health benefits of staff in the Polytechnic, so you can now see how secure you are even without the salary. The benefits of good health and safety to the establishment are enormous also, for they lead to increased production, because employees are healthier, happier and better motivated. The employees are less likely to take sick leave and of course there is enhancement of employee commitment to work.
How Can These Benefits Be Improved:
In order to improve the benefits of good safety and health measures, staff must ensure they involve themselves in the following for which however the Employer must provide a level playing ground.
We must hearken to the adage that says prevention is better than cure. The Employer must provide all the necessary appurtenances and the employees must adhere to safety specifications. Boots, Eyeglasses, Gloves etc.
More Health and safety seminars should be organized and these should be regular. The Medical Centre should continue to acquire more equipments and upgrade available ones. There should be constant re-training of staff.
More avenues should be created for social interaction amongst staff. This could be in form of parties or grand Academic and/or Professional Lectures.
The importance of these cannot be over emphasized as a health enhancer. They help to improve the body health indices and also help to keep people occupied and therefore removed from non productive thoughts.
Know the right food items to eat. You may consult the nutritionist.
I believe from the above you will know the health and safety benefits that are due to you and how to ensure that you improve them to the benefit of the establishment and yourself.
Remember to think about safety and what it means to you and try get your co-workers to do the same; you might be surprised at what can be accomplished if everyone just becomes a little more aware of the safety of their works environment. Remember that health is wealth.
Dr. O. O Nnachi
Director, Medical Services